There will be some conspicuous absences at the PWB BC Senior Men’s Baseball Championship in Prince George this weekend.
The Trail AM Ford Senior Men’s Orioles wrapped up a challenging season last week with a three-game series against Vernon, but won’t be attending the provincial tournament, generally a focal point of the Orioles’ summer season this long weekend.
“We’re keeping afloat, I guess you could say,” said the Orioles’ Chris Kissock. “But we cancelled provincials this year. We’re just struggling with the numbers, and I think anything with baseball is struggling right now.”
The provincial championship has just four teams competing this year at Prince George Citizen Field, including the Kamloops Sun Devils, Burnaby Bulldogs, Coquitlam Angels and Prince George Greys.
Most provincials have eight teams battling for a berth into the National Championship and Western Bs, but in addition to the Orioles, teams like the Langley Sr. Blaze, Nanaimo Coal Miners, VIBI Muckers, Kelowna Jays and Victoria Mavericks have chosen to pass on the event.
“It’s kind of disappointing and sad to see but we’ll have to do something to get it back,” said Kissock.
A commitment is one of the biggest challenges for a team that is made up of local players, compared to many of the elite coastal and Okanagan teams that are comprised of college players.
“A lot of the teams in Kelowna and Seattle are college summer-league teams, and we just can’t compete,” said Kissock. “Our team’s made up of guys with kids and families, and also guys that work shift work, and it’s hard to get guys to commit every weekend.”
Trail Youth Baseball (TYB) also took a hit this year, unable to field a ‘AA’ team for the Washington State American Legion Baseball League (WSALB). Yet TYB did take a leap forward with the addition of the 13U Orioles team that played in the Spokane Indians Youth Baseball League.
“That was perfect, because that’s a big jump going from Little League to 60-feet six-inches, in the big park.”
The ability to grow players and stoke the desire to keep playing baseball are unique challenges. The Sr. Men’s Orioles are looking at options including setting up games south of the border and in Alberta. The Orioles had a great series against the Sidearm Nation, a Calgary team, in April and had booked a set of games with a Spokane team that were cancelled.
“Next year is going to be a little different. We’re talking about posting a tryout or something, see what kind of guys we can get to come out.”
Nevertheless, when the Orioles are able to field a team, it is very capable, and this past week the Orioles beat Vernon in 2-of-3 matches losing 8-7 in the opener, before finishing with 5-2 and 10-1 victories.
“We need to look at our competition and play against those Calgary teams and Vernon a little more, and maybe we’ll get more guys interested.”
The last time the Trail AM Ford Orioles skipped the provincials was 2015, but came back in the 2016 BC championaship and made it to the semifinal where they lost to the eventual champion Burnaby Bulldogs. In 2014, Trail hosted the provincial championship at Butler Park and made the playoffs before falling to the Coquitlam Angels.
With such a rich baseball history, which Kissock, a Philadelphia Phillies draft pick, is a vital part, the absence of a Trail team from the provincial tournament is an unfortunate blow to the team, the City, and the tournament; but one which Kissock and the Orioles hope to turn around next year.